After Everyone Leaves

One of my first days all by myself with two children. Carrying them both in from the car sleeping.

All throughout the first week postpartum, I kept thinking how easy it was in comparison to what I thought it was going to be like. I was staying on top of things, my physical healing was much easier this time around, and emotionally I was feeling fantastic given all the hormones adjusting in my body. My husband was home, so he could help with Peanut. My friends and family were coming over and graciously offering to do housework for us. Twig was sleeping the majority of the day and surprisingly well at night (beyond the first night where she was awake for 5 hours in the night, she only woke a few times for an hour or so). I was getting to shower. My house was more messy, but not a catastrophe. Even Peanut, who wasn’t handling her world changing so dramatically well at all, was something I was able to handle.

Then everyone left.

My husband went back to work. People, for the most part, stopped coming over to visit. My in-laws went out of town and my mother went back to work. It’s like all my help was pulled out from under me all at once. Kaboom! Everyone’s gone.

But isn’t that how it works in our society? In other cultures, it’s normal to “baby” the mother, but in ours the focus is immediately shifted from the pregnant mom to the newborn, leaving little to no attention to the newly postpartum mother (thanks to Best of Babes for linking the article on Facebook). During a very difficult time in her life, both emotionally and physically, no one has much interest in her. Everyone wants to hold the baby, just occasionally asking the mom how she’s doing without any real interest.

Of course this is a more severe case than most of us experience. I had some wonderful people who came to visit and brought me dinner, cleaned my house, and just sat and talked with me. I am very thankful of all of the lovely people in my life. Just the act of listening does so much for a new mother.

But that’s just it, I’m still newly a mom of two. I’m still figuring out how to balance two children at once, one who is incredibly needy because she’s so new to this world and one who is incredibly needy because her world is now so new to her. I’m still trying to heal myself, especially in terms of my emotional health, which appears to be spiraling downward as time goes on (more on that in another post and don’t worry, I’m getting help). My house is becoming a bigger and bigger mess by the day, which just adds to these difficulties. Yet no one shows interest any more.

People have offered to come help, but I never take them up on it. I don’t know if it’s just me or a reflection of our society, but I find it very difficult to say “Yes, come do my dishes for me.” When people show up at my house and just start doing my dishes I even feel guilty. I don’t know why I’m so unwilling to actually ask for help either. I keep thinking of all the people who have offered and would happily come over and play with Peanut or vacuum my living room, but I can’t get myself to call. For some reason, the idea of calling actually makes me feel a little teary-eyed. That’s probably just the PPD though.

I honestly don’t even know the purpose of this post. My brain isn’t functioning fully at the moment, which makes sense. I guess I just wished that our society took care of new moms better. I wish people realized that it’s not just hard for the first couple of weeks, but rather for the first couple of months (if not more). I wish people cared more about the family as a whole rather than just the new baby.

I’ll leave you all with this great post from Code Name: Mama about things you can do for parents of a newborn.

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5 thoughts on “After Everyone Leaves

  1. Here with ya. I’m in the same place right now, and sometimes it’s unbelievably difficult! You’ll pull through though. You’re a dedicated mama, and your daughter can’t help but know you love her, even when you’re all alone with your two, and not running to comfort her because your littler one is crying. This time is so busy it will pass by like no time at all. The fleeting moments when you put your nose in your newborn’s soft hair and get that sweet, milky smell, or watch your older daughter’s antics, trying to get a smile from the baby… they will all be just memories in a few short months. So will the times your big girl is wailing for your attention, while breakfast burns and you are frantically washing yellow goo from your little girl’s entire back… for the fourth time in one morning. You’ll soon be even more of an expert mama than you were before.

    My newborn just turned a month old yesterday, and my older boy is two and a half. My husband was home for a week, then everyone got very busy again. It helps when he comes home and takes our older one for a walk, or takes him up to sleep at night. We still co-sleep with our older one, and the hardest time is right in the morning when he wakes up to find daddy gone and mommy busy with the baby, who is making a good deal of noise. He used to only be willing to sleep if snuggled right into my front. My house is chronically getting messy too.

    If you have time, would love to hear your tips on tightening a wrap properly for a newborn in the kangaroo position. I keep worrying her back might be taking too much weight, or she gets quiet so quickly because something isn’t right… Maybe I’m just a real worry-wart. Can’t seem to get zero wrinkles on her back with my woven storchenweige wrap when I go to tighten it. No pressure. I know you’re incredibly busy. Thanks.

    Good luck with everything.

    – Stephanie

  2. My mother came to stay with us for a week after my second was born. I had never felt so helpless in my life as when she went home and left me there to take care of Both. Those. Children. It’s been almost a quarter of a century since then, but I vividly remember standing on the porch holding my son’s hand, carrying the baby in the other arm, with tears running down my cheeks and breastmilk leaking down my belly, as I watched her drive away.

    Please, please, please allow people to help whereever they will. Try to ask for it, even. Feelings of guilt are often part of PPD, so you are probablly right that a lot of those feelings are coming from that. As you say, it is normal in many other cultures to “mother the mother,” so please let others do so, if they will.

    If you haven’t, try to talk to your husband about how you are feeling. Tell him he Internet says you need a hand, 😉 He may be having similar feelings of being overwhelmed himself, as he adjusts to being the father of two and the husband of a new mom of two, so can’t necessarily jump in “fix it all.” but perhaps he can help you figure out some things that might be helpful and pass the word on to friends that might be able to help.

    A few suggestions might be:
    Meals brought to you
    A big stack of paper plates, bag of plasic silverware, etc.
    Washing a few loads of clothes or folding some that have already been washed
    Washing dishes, vacuuming, sweeping the floor, etc.
    Changing your bed
    Making a run to the grocery for you
    Sitting and visiting with you (perhaps while folding your clothes)
    Playing with Peanut while you take a bath – or a nap
    Inviting Peanut to the park, on a playdate, etc.
    Taking you, Twig, and Peanut out to lunch or even just for a visit to their house for awhile

    These are things that were/would have been helpful for me, and/or things that I have done for other new moms over the years. Your list might be different.

    And remember, it gets better.

  3. I felt guilty accepting help, too, but I was so glad when I did! One friend in particular was so good to me – she brought Kieran home one day after a play date so I didn’t have to get Ailia out in the cold, she brought us a meal that included breakfast (wow!!), she did my dishes, etc. I felt so loved – and I was so grateful! Accept those offers, and then pay the kindness forward someday 🙂

  4. Six weeks postpartum here, and still trying to figure out how to cope with the laundry again. I hear you. I feel kind of guilty for just never thinking about this before. I’ve known so many people who had kids before I did, but it never occurred to me that they might need me for something other than cooing at the baby. In the future, I think I will just show up with my bucket and rags and barge my way in.

    I’ve never felt so overworked and so useless at the same time.

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